Music videos

Beyonce’s “B’Day” Turns 15: Employees Remember Music and Videos


The stakes were always high when it came to working with Beyoncé. Already superstar and three-time Grammy winner as a member of Destiny’s Child, with four Billboard Hot 100 No.1s to her credit, when she went solo in 2003 with the release of “Dangerously in Love”, she set a dizzying pace from the start, with two No. 1 hits and the sale of over five million copies of the album.

With her second album “B’Day” she knew she had to raise the bar, both as a singer and a visual artist – a given now, as Queen Bey turns 40 today, but not yet. cemented 15 years ago.

Although her eponymous fifth album is the first that Beyoncé has directly considered a visual album, many followers of the singer consider “B’Day”, released to accompany her birthday on September 4, 2006, as the first true visual representation of her. music. . This is largely because, seven months after its release, Beyoncé released the DVD “B’Day Anthology Video Album”, containing 13 clips.

Beyonce Knowles and VJ Damien Fahey appear on stage during MTV’s “Total Request Live” on Tuesday, September 5, 2006 in New York City. (AP Photo / Jason DeCrow)

Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, who produced “World Wide Woman” and the album’s first single, “Deja Vu”, recalls Beyoncé telling him her original intention to make a music video for every song on the album. “She was actually looking at different people that she was considering hiring as directors,” Jerkins said. Variety. “When we weren’t recording she was thinking about all that stuff, and I was lucky enough to see that side of her.”

Jerkins and fellow producer Jon Jon Traxx first came up with the concept of “Deja Vu” by driving to a 7-Eleven before a recording session. Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” was on the radio, and having worked with Jackson before, Jerkins wanted to give Beyoncé something of that caliber.

Within an hour, Jerkins and Traxx cut the demo and introduced it to Beyoncé, who fell in love with the record and immediately edited it. Since “Deja Vu” was her big comeback single at the time, Beyoncé wanted it to be monumental. Jerkins and Traxx incorporated live instruments into the track, including brass, with Beyoncé insisting they add an 808 at the last minute.

For the video, Beyoncé hired Sophie Muller, who describes the artist as “an easy business.” Muller remembers Beyoncé having a vision for the video, insisting that they shoot on location.

Says Muller: “I remember we had various discussions about things like, ‘Should we try to recreate the idea of ​​New Orleans in a studio? And she said, “No, we’re definitely going to New Orleans, and that will be the backdrop for the video.” I really respected the idea she wanted, and I took her in hand on it.

The video was shot at several locations in New Orleans, including the Maple Leaf Bar. Muller recalls seeing “heartbreaking” damage around the city and the land, due to the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated the region a few weeks earlier.

While “Deja Vu” remains a fan favorite, its video was received rather lukewarm upon its release, with some fans creating an online petition demanding a new shoot. Some critics have even criticized the sexual nature of Beyoncé’s dance moves, especially during Jay-Z’s second guest verse on the song.

“It was a sexy scene,” says Muller, noting that Beyoncé has freestyled many of her dance moves. “I have always thought [Beyonce and Jay] had natural sexual chemistry. To me, things are offensive if you have a director who says to “do this” and the other person doesn’t want to do it, but they didn’t. (Bey and Jay got married in April 2008.)

Muller had an easier time coming up with the concept of “Alarm Ring”, which sees Beyoncé channel Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct”. Although Beyoncé didn’t introduce her alter ego Sasha Fierce to the world until after her third album, “I Am… Sasha Fierce”, Muller remembers the conversations about Sasha Fierce during the filming of “Ring the Alarm”.

In “Alarm Ring,” Beyoncé is seen dancing in an interrogation room, carried into a hallway by police officers and tracked down by the press and paparazzi.

“I think what was great about this video is that there is a story there, but it’s told very softly,” says Muller. “It’s not like ‘it happened, and then it happened’, it’s very symbolic. You don’t really know what happened. Like, did she kill someone? ‘ “

Some of the more festive videos include “Get Me Bodied,” directed by Anthony Mandler, which shows Beyoncé partying at a club with her Destiny’s Child classmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, and her sister Solange – dancing. elaborately and cradling a series of iconic outfits.

According to Mandler, “Get Me Bodied” was shot during “a very long, excruciating day”. Over a two-week period, Beyoncé shot nine videos for the Anthology DVD, “Get Me Bodied” being the last of the shoots. During the 8-hour day, the dancers transformed into “rooms and rooms and rooms and shelves, racks and clothes racks” designed by Beyonce’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, before tearing up the dance floor in following Beyonce’s instructions (“get off, let’s hit the floor with”, “pat your weave, ladies.”)

The video, which was co-directed by Beyoncé, marks the one time Mandler, who has worked with superstar artists such as The Weeknd, Drake, Rihanna and Christina Aguilera, has shared directing credit. For “Get Me Bodied” in particular, Beyoncé wanted the combination of choreography (by Frank Gaston Jr.), movement and fashion to give the visual a “cinematic, editorial” feel.

“Bey likes to look at the pictures and is very precise on the shots,” says Mandler. “And I loved receiving his notes because they were so meticulous.”

Likewise, if not more complex, is the video made by Ray Kay for “Freakum Dress,” which sees Beyoncé embracing her sexy side in a variety of fashion favorites. Knowles-Lawson designed over 30 dresses for the video – eight are worn by Beyoncé in different flash sequences, and the rest dress the dancers.

Like “Get Me Bodied,” the video was shot in one day, during “4-6pm,” according to Kay, who adds, “I don’t remember how many wardrobe changes we made, but I remember I wanted to do more than we had time for.

“Irreplaceable” was also featured on “B’Day,” which spent 10 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and has since become one of his most iconic hits. Turns out the song almost didn’t go to Beyoncé. Ne-Yo originally wrote the melody during sessions for his second album, “Because of You”. But once he realized that the lyrics would sound “chauvinistic” if sung by a man, he reworked the demo and offered it to female artists.

Although it was reported that Chrisette Michelle was planning to cut the track and that Ne-Yo had Faith Hill and Shania Twain in mind when he wrote it, it is not clear how many artists received the demo before Beyoncé doesn’t shut up. Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith, co-founder of Roc Nation, heard the song and immediately felt it would suit Beyoncé.

“Ty Ty was dipping his head into the sessions, inside and out, as he was also A&R for [“Because of You”]», Remembers Ne-Yo. “When he heard something he would say, ‘Hey, let me understand.’ So we would give him a copy, and he would leave. Two weeks later, he would come back and say, “So this is going to be on Beyoncé’s album.”

Ne-Yo says “Irreplaceable” is “the greatest song” he has written in his career, noting that hearing Beyoncé record it helped him discover the power of perspective. He says Beyoncé gave the song a new level of “power,” which ultimately changed the meaning of the songs.

While the song has been the subject of various arrangements, including the live instrumentation version we see by his all-female group in his video directed by Mandler, the collaborators who spoke to Variety ahead of the anniversary of ” B’Day, ”all agree: Beyoncé is a visionary and those around her are there to help bring that vision to life.

“I have never felt so useless as in Beyoncé’s studio,” Ne-Yo cracks. “Because I wasn’t needed at all. She didn’t need me to hold her hand in the studio. She didn’t need me to tell her which note to hit or what the next harmony was. None of that.”

“B’Day” would sell more than 530,000 albums in its first week and would eventually have more than 3 million units in the United States and 8 million worldwide. The video collection is also said to be double platinum certified in the United States by the RIAA.